Exodus 18:1 - 20:23
Rabbi James Jacobson-Maisels for myjewishlearning.com
Negative and Positive Freedom
We are called on daily to "proclaim liberty throughout the land."
In this week’s Torah portion, Yitro, we read of the revelation at Sinai that follows last week’s Exodus from Egypt. What is this relationship between freedom and revelation, between Exodus and Sinai?
The Hasidic master R. Yehudah Leib Alter of Ger explains that Sinai follows the Exodus because “the purpose of all the commandments…is so that every person of Israel be free (Sefat Emet, Language of Truth, pp. 319-320).” Revelation follows liberation because while freedom might have been initiated at the Exodus, it is only completed at Sinai.
Yet what kind of freedom is this? What kind of freedom is maintained by the revelation of laws and commandments which, on their surface, seem to limit freedom?
BY RABBI JOEL MOSBACHER from ReformJudaism.org
What do lobbyists do during a government shutdown?
Most might stay home. But if you are an intrepid, well-prepared, passionate teenage Jewish lobbyist, you find a way in.
That’s what eight teenage members of Temple Shaaray Tefila in New York, NY, did yesterday, after they had spent the weekend preparing to lobby as a part of the L’Taken Social Justice Seminar sponsored by the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism.
They had worked all weekend, learning about the current political issues on Capitol Hill and about what Judaism and Jewish values say about those issues, as well as considering how they themselves had been personally affected by them. They spent hours preparing impassioned, personal, Judaism-infused lobbying speeches.
Peter Wehner for Mosaic
Anyone expecting to find a politicized museum dedicated to hot-button “culture-war” issues needs to look elsewhere than the new Museum of the Bible.
Diana Muir Applebaum’s essay, “Who’s Afraid of the Museum of the Bible?,” is informative, skillfully argued, fair-minded, and leavened by wit and elegance. It is also much needed, since the museum has come under harsh assault from a variety of sources.
Before addressing the nature of that assault, I’d like to register very briefly my own favorable impressions of the museum, which I visited on December 30 with my daughter and some family friends. From the very first sight that greets one’s eyes—the two 40-foot-high bronze panels framing the entrance, bearing text from Genesis 1 on replicas of plates from the Gutenberg Bible, followed in the vestibule by a display of Psalm 19 on a papyrus leaf that dates back to the 3rd or 4th century CE—one is conscious of taking part in a highly singular experience.
BY TAMAR FOX for myjewishlearning.com
Over at New York Magazine’s Vulture blog they have a list of movies to help you celebrate Tu Bishvat. Now, I have some issues with the pretense–of all holidays Tu Bishvat has no narrative, and so seems like it wouldn’t lend itself to cinema, plus the holiday is about trees and nature, so I’m not sure staying inside to watch a movie makes a huge amount of sense. On the other hand, it’s cold outside, and I like movies, so I’ll give it a pass. Number one on the list, of course, is the Giving Tree. But number 5 is Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and 2-4 will probably raise some eyebrows, too. Definitely check it out.
Find some great ideas on JvillageNetwork's Pinterest page.
by Jaime Bender for FromtheGrapevine
The sesame-based treat, often eaten on its own, is about to be the new ingredient in your favorite foods.
At first glance, it looks like a cross between cake and fudge. And since both of those things are inarguably great, it's no surprise that we would be singing the praises of a treat called halvah, a sesame-based concoction popular in Israel, the Mediterranean and now, the U.S. You can make it at home, buy it at specialty shops and grocery stores in either candy bar or loaf form, and even use it as a ingredient in your favorite baked goods – which is where we come in.
Here are some classic recipes that we've discovered – and some we've created ourselves – enhanced with a healthy helping of halvah.
From A Beautiful Mess
Hey, guys! It’s Katie here. I recently made one of my most favorite toys for my kiddos and I just had to share! I have to admit, when this idea popped into my head I may have gotten a little overly excited. You see, one of our very favorite things to do as a family is tend to the garden, but since we live in the Midwest there has been none of that for many months now. Soon the weather will be warm and we will be growing goodies in the garden again, but until then this toy garden box will help tide the girls over. Here’s how to make your own:
Find more great ideas on JvillageNetwork's Pinterest page.
by Amy Klein for Hadassah Magazine
Sitting in the comfort of my liberal enclave in New York City and reading Dorit Rabinyan’s book about an Israeli woman and a Palestinian man who meet in Greenwich Village and fall in love, I try to comprehend that this best seller was censored in Israel.
A few months after All the Rivers was published there in May 2014, the country’s Ministry of Education removed it from its high school reading list. Education Minister Naftali Bennett explained that the book presents Israel’s soldiers as “criminal sadists,” compares them to terrorists and describes a romance between a “Palestinian security prisoner” and an Israeli woman.
For more great reads, check out Jvillage Network's Pinterest page.
By Nicky Blackburn for Israel21c
A compound that disables cancer cells, an artificial cornea, the world’s first bone implant: 2017 saw major medical advances. We bring you the best.
1. Compound kills energy generating system of cancer
An Israeli researcher devised a synthetic compound to disable the enzymes that allow cancer cells to metastasize.
When cancer cells leave the primary tumor and spread to other organs, they reprogram their energy-generating system in order to survive in harsh conditions with a shortage of nutrients like glucose.
Prof. Uri Nir of Bar-Ilan University identified an enzyme called FerT in the energy-generating mitochondria of metastatic cancer cells – an enzyme normally only found in sperm cells (which need to function outside the body they came from). When he targeted FerT in lab mice, the malignant cells soon died.
By Chloe Benjamin for Jewish Book Council
I often attribute my interest in religion to the fact that, after my parents’ divorce, I grew up with two of them. My mom is the daughter of an Episcopalian minister, and as a child, I went to Sunday School at our local Episcopalian church. My dad, meanwhile, is ancestrally Jewish but presently atheist. I often tease him about the fact that his first wife is a minister’s daughter, and his second—my stepmother, Ellen—is a Jewish spiritual director.
Ellen grew up in Lorraine, Ohio, in a conservative Jewish family. Now a member of San Francisco’s reform synagogue Temple Emanu-El, she brought Jewish history and culture into our home. I was fascinated by the stories, the language and the traditions, from praying over candles, wine and challah on Shabbat to the rituals of Passover. When I asked Ellen to teach me Hebrew, she found an introductory textbook clearly geared toward children half my age and helped me learn.
Though often widely practiced, customs are not considered mandatory by traditional Jews.
A Jewish custom — known in Hebrew as a minhag — is a religious practice that, though sometimes very widely practiced, does not carry the force of Jewish law and is thus not considered mandatory by traditional Jews.
Customs cover an extremely wide range of Jewish rituals, from variations in the order or language of particular prayers to swinging a chicken over one’s head prior to Yom Kippur to the nearly universal practice of smashing a glass at the conclusion of a wedding ceremony. Customs typically have folk origins, but there are instances in which they may have been imposed by religious authorities. Other customs were maintained for so long and adopted so widely that they have become enshrined as obligations in Jewish legal codes and are no longer, strictly speaking, customs at all. Still others may have been adapted from practices of the cultures in which Jews lived and were only later sanctioned by Jewish authorities.
By Abigail Klein Leichman for Israel21c
SolCold’s nanotech coating is a potentially game-changing electricity-free solution for cooling buildings or equipment in intensely sunny climates.
Coating materials that protect against fire, water or extreme temperatures are nothing new. But an Israeli high-tech paint doesn’t just protect surfaces from the sun. SolCold actually uses the sun’s power to activate a cooling mechanism, effectively providing air conditioning without electricity.
You read that right: This double-layered coating absorbs the hot rays of the sun and re-emits that energy in the form of cold. The hotter the solar radiation the more the coating cools down, making SolCold’s paint a potentially game-changing electricity-free solution for intensely sunny climates such as Africa and Central and South America.
BY RABBI ELISA KLAPHECK for myjewishlearning.com
The first female rabbi and how she was almost forgotten.
If I confess what motivated me, a woman, to become a rabbi, two things come to mind. My belief in God’s calling and my love of humans. God planted in our heart skills and a vocation without asking about gender. Therefore, it is the duty of men and women alike to work and create according to the skills given by God. — Regina Jonas, C.-V.-Zeitung, June 23, 1938.
Regina Jonas, the first woman to be ordained as a rabbi, was killed in Auschwitz in October 1944. From 1942-1944 she performed rabbinical functions in Theresienstadt (also known as Terezin). She would probably have been completely forgotten, had she not left traces both in Theresienstadt and in her native city, Berlin. None of her male colleagues, among them Rabbi Leo Baeck (1873-1956) and the psychoanalyst Viktor Frankl (1905-1997), ever mentioned her after the Holocaust.
Exodus 13:17 - 17:16
Rabbi Adam Greenwald for myjewishlearning.com
Children of Nachshon
Liberation comes only to the courageous.
Every year we tell this story:
Our ancestors left Egypt a teeming multitude, a ragtag crowd of former slaves in a great hurry for a long-awaited deliverance. They made their way toward freedom, only to find a great sea blocking their path. And God said to Moses: “Lift up your hands and the sea will split.” And Moses held his arm out over the sea and God drove back the sea with a mighty wind all that night. The water split and the children of Israel walked —”B’toch ha-yam b’yabasha” — in the midst of the sea on dry ground, waters forming a translucent wall on either side.
While most contemporary Jewish authorities believe ear piercing is fine, the matter grows somewhat more complex when it comes to extensive piercings or piercing other body parts.
Does Jewish law allow body piercing? While most contemporary Jewish authorities believe that ear piercing is generally fine, the matter grows somewhat more complex when it comes to extensive piercings or piercing other body parts.
The principal issue of Jewish law raised by body modifications of all types is the traditional prohibition on damaging a human body.
Some contemporary authorities have also raised concerns that piercing can run afoul of Jewish values of modesty (tzniut ) and respect for the body as created in the divine image.
However, most rabbinic authorities give at least some weight to contemporary mores, in particular the fact that body piercing is understood today not as a sign of bodily denigration, but as an act of adornment.
The World Congress aims to be a networking resource for LGBTQIA+ Jews from around the world to connect, engage, and support on local, national, continental and global levels. The Hebrew subtitle Keshet Ga’avah – Rainbow of Pride – emphasizes the importance of tradition and diversity to the World Congress.
Join Us in Rome!
The World Congress: Keshet Ga’avah with our member organization MDKI of Rome are excited to welcome the public to an amazing conference from the 15th to the 18th of March. If you register for the event before January 15th, the price is only 90 euros to join us for a full four days of events. You can register for the event on our website. We will be having conversations about Muslim and Jewish engagement, LGBTQ people seeking asylum in Italy, preventing and fighting gender-based violence against women, and civil rights in Israel. There will also be a guided tour of the former Jewish ghetto of Rome. Most exciting, there will be simultaneous translation during the event into English. Do not miss this incredible opportunity to meet new friends, engage with important topics surrounding LGBTQ Jewish life around the world, and explore Rome.
By JOSHUA DAVIDOVICH for The Times of Israel
PM treated to a reception rarely seen by Israeli leaders anywhere; Foreign Ministry director says he's never seen any like it
In Ahmadebad, tens of thousands of people lined the street, some waving Israeli flags, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sped past, whizzing by massive billboards with his and Indian counterpart Narendra Modi’s faces plastered on them.
In rural Dev Dholera, curious farmers and others craned their necks to catch a glimpse of the prime ministers, and hundreds of young entrepreneurs and business people cheered the leaders like rock stars.
By Rebecca Stadlen Amir for Israel21c
‘Somebody Feed Phil’ highlights a culinary adventure across Israel including stops in Tel Aviv, Jaffa, Caesarea and Acre.
A new Netflix show follows host Phil Rosenthal, creator of American TV series “Everybody Loves Raymond,” on a culinary tour of six cities known for their incredible food, including Lisbon, New Orleans, Bangkok, Saigon, Mexico City – and Tel Aviv.
The series, titled “Somebody Feed Phil,” encourages people to travel by depicting mouthwatering local delicacies. “If you want to know what Israel’s really like, you have to come here,” Rosenthal says at one point during the Tel Aviv-focused episode.
BY DAWN LERMAN for The Nosher for myjewishlearning.com
I was the only person in Miss Duckler’s kindergarten class without a sibling. I had wished so long for a sister. But I had also wished on a star for a Baby Alive doll, and that never came true. So when my Aunt Jeannie picked me up from school and shared the birth of my sister April, I couldn’t really believe it. I started cheering, and skipping in circles. “I have a sister, I have a sister!”
As we drove off in her silver El Dorado Cadillac, I was dying with anticipation. I wanted to see what April looked like, hold her, and be one of the first voices she heard. Breaking the news that we would have to wait till morning before we could go to the hospital, Jeannie pulled out a bag of her just baked chocolate chip mandel bread. “They’re still warm,” she said, trying to comfort me.
By Shaunna Evans for Fantastic Fun and Learning
I didn’t really expect our alphabet series to be full of exploring natural elements, but I like to follow the kids’ lead. It’s a great time to be outdoors and learn more about the world around us, so we’re seizing the opportunity.
For the letter T we learned about trees. Today I’m sharing some of the many tree-inspired activities around the web. There are ideas for science investigations, literacy and math activities, book-related projects, and many terrific crafts and paintings to help you put together your own tree activities for the kids in your life. Some of the posts are seasonal, but they can often be adapted easily to meet your needs. I hope you enjoy reading all of these posts as much as I did!
Find some great ideas on JvillageNetwork's Pinterest page.
By Kathy Bloomfield. This article has been reprinted with permission from InterfaithFamily
When I was a girl, I spent many weekends at my grandmother’s house. She had a HUGE walnut tree in the center of her backyard. The neighborhood kids and my siblings and I, like most children, used sheets, blankets, benches and the like to create tents, tunnels and fortresses under the branches of that tree. From there we would enter the fantastic worlds of our imagination, gathering food for our children (i.e. walnuts for the dolls), walking through the desert (i.e. my grandmother’s cactus garden) or searching for magic globes (i.e. fruit from her avocado tree). The walnut tree was the starting point of every journey and the center of most of our larger family gatherings.
Find some great ideas on JvillageNetwork's Pinterest page.